Nurturing patients, and advocating for them
The AMA Wire® “Members Move Medicine” series profiles a wide variety of physicians, offering a glimpse into the passions of women and men navigating new courses in American medicine.
On the move with: Ami A. Shah, MD, a board-certified radiologist and director of mammography and women's imaging at New York City Health and Hospitals.
AMA member since: 1993.
How I move medicine: I teach and hopefully inspire medical students and residents to understand radiology and its role in patient care, as well as the appropriateness of studies and management. In this way, I hope they are able to move medicine to help their patients, select the best studies and minimize waste and risk.
On a professional level, I work hard with my staff and administration to provide the best care. We also work to provide a nurturing, friendly, and confidence-inspiring environment for patients. While making the right diagnosis is important, I stress to our staff to recognize that the patients’ encounter with our team is also important.
On the hospital front, I have been elected as a representative to our medical executive committee and collaboration council, and I have taken on extra responsibility to represent physicians in my hospital to keep things fair and moving forward and keep them aware of pivotal changes.
On a national front, I am active with the AMA, the American College of Radiology and the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to advocate for physicians and our patients and to educate our lawmakers on our goals and ambitions.
I am also the alternate delegate for the AMA Women Physicians Section and help move things forward with our amazing governing council and AMA staff. I am especially proud of all the policy change we have worked so hard to achieve.
I am grateful and humbled by the opportunity the AMA provides me to exercise my leadership ability and to move things forward for women, children, all patients and our physician community. Every time I speak at the AMA House of Delegates or reference committees, I am amazed that my voice counts.
What moving medicine means to me: Born to a middle class family in Mumbai, India, my parents spoke often about the obstetrician that delivered my sister and I. Her name was Dr. Meena Kapadia. She started a clinic in Mumbai where she delivered babies safely regardless of a mother's ability to afford the care she received.
In the 1960s and 1970s it was very atypical for a woman to be a physician, much less own her own clinic where she set the rules. As I got to know her, I admired her and respected her. It became apparent to me that I wanted to be someone who brought health to people, and that I wanted to protect women and children and champion their right to health and well-being.
An experience from medical school that kept me going: As a medical student at the seven-year BS/MD program at CUNY (City University of New York) School of Medicine’s Sophie Davis Biomedical Education Program, I learned that providing health care is a global issue, a community concern and a family's concern. I had the opportunity to participate in the American Medical Student Association and Amnesty International. Through those organizations, I learned about global health care issues such as female genital mutilation and sex trafficking.
I received a scholarship to research medieval medical health legislation at Oxford University where I solidified my belief that self-regulation is vital to our profession. I also conducted a community health service project in New York (the Bronx), where we evaluated community health resources. These varied experiences helped reinforce how interconnected we are in this human experience, and inspired me to always try to do more than what we typically do day-to-day as physicians and to champion the health of our patients.
My source of inspiration: My parents and grandparents, who have always supported my dreams; and my sister, for showing me that it can be done. I work to leave this world better for my son and his family. I am thankful for his patience; from a young age, I dragged him to medical meetings—often leaving him in the hotel room entertained with a movie and room service. I am thankful the AMA is now at the forefront of advocating to provide necessary services such as child care and lactation rooms, so that more parents can be involved in the organization and not have to worry about their children.
My hope for the future of medicine: Is that despite the administrative and billing burdens, regulations and the lack of control we are experiencing as physicians in the U.S., we can go back to what led us to this amazing field—helping people. To take control of the direction of our altruistic profession and be the leaders to define where we take it next. Physicians need to direct the future of medicine.
The hardest moment in medicine and how I got past it: Medicine is challenging. We work tirelessly for a perfect outcome for our patients and, in fact, everyone around us expects and demands perfection. As we all know, however, despite doing everything the way we are trained, the outcome sometimes feels beyond our control. I get past this through my faith and knowing that we cannot always determine the outcome, but we can make the journey for our patients the best it possibly can be.
My favorite experience working with the medical team: I love working with my technologists to share with them the joy of the clinical relevance of what they do on a day-to-day basis. I like to energize my team and let each member know how important their function is to the success of every patient's experience—from the clerks, scheduling patients and fielding calls, to my wonderful technologists who, while doing outstanding work, also focus on making the patient experience a positive one.
The most challenging aspects of caring for patients: Sometimes patients do not follow our advice or defer treatment because there is something else overwhelming them in their life that they need to manage first. This is especially challenging when patients have a new diagnosis and delay treatment because they are not able to find time.
The most rewarding aspect of caring for patients: Knowing what we do on a day-to-day basis is so important. I can’t think of anything more important in life than someone's health.
The skills every physician should have but won’t be tested for on the board exam: Compassion and empathy.
One question students should ask themselves before pursuing medicine: It’s a long road of delayed gratification, are you up for that challenge?
A quick insight I would give students who are considering medicine: It requires numerous sacrifices and 100 percent attention and focus.
Mantra or song to describe my life in medicine: "Om Bhur Bhuva Swaha, Tat Savitur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yonah Prachodayat," a Sanskrit Hindu verse. This poem invites us—while meditating—to stimulate and illuminate our minds. In medicine, we also strive to continue to learn, grow, solve and improve.